Rare desert wheatear in Scotland


This video from Morocco is called Moroccan Bird Tours: Desert Wheatear / Oenanthe deserti.

From Wildlife Extra:

Desert wheatear spotted in Scotland

A rare avian species to the UK is spotted beside RSPB nature reserve

December 2012. Staff at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg had an exciting visitor arrive on Sunday 2nd December. The desert wheatear, an old world flycatcher, is believed to have become lost travelling to the Sahara desert and found itself in Aberdeenshire.

The misguided bird will now have to survive chilly conditions and set off once the weather improves for a warmer climate.

Strathbeg

“We’ve been excited to see a rarity here at Loch of Strathbeg – a desert wheatear spotted at Rattray,” said Diana Spencer, RSPB Visitor officer at Loch of Strathbeg.

“It should be in the Sahara by now so it’s probably a bit stunned by being on a beach in Aberdeenshire in freezing temperatures! It was first spotted by two of our volunteers who were unsure what it was – but they brought in photos, which we then posted on Twitter. Within less than a minute we had two people identify the bird as a desert wheatear which was excellent.”

The desert wheatear

The desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti), thought to be a female, or less likely a juvenile, is the same size as a robin with distinctive all black upper tail feathers. Males are buff in colour with white underparts and females have a greyer colour with buffer appearance below.

The chances of survival for the bird are said to be fairly good, according to Ian Francis, RSPB area manager for the North East. “There’s every chance this lost bird will survive,” said Ian. “It needs to ideally get itself back to the Eastern Mediterranean but there’s no way of knowing how well this bird may fare unless it was ringed and spotted elsewhere.

“There are lots of theories on why some birds lose the correct course; some suggest weather or loss of navigational ability. In truth, we do not really know and just have to hope that this bird ends up where it should be – or at least in warmer climes than Aberdeenshire.”

RSPB Loch of Strathbeg is just off the A90 between Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Follow the ‘Nature Reserve’ signs from Crimond village.

Desert wheatear also in North Wales: here.

Lions disappear as savannahs shrink


This video is called Taking Action for African Lions: Behind the Schemes, Episode 11.

From Biodiversity and Conservation journal, December 2012:

The size of savannah Africa: a lion’s (Panthera leo) view

Abstract

We define African savannahs as being those areas that receive between 300 and 1,500 mm of rain annually. This broad definition encompasses a variety of habitats. Thus defined, savannahs comprise 13.5 million km2 and encompass most of the present range of the African lion (Panthera leo).

Dense human populations and extensive conversion of land to human use preclude use by lions. Using high-resolution satellite imagery and human population density data we define lion areas, places that likely have resident lion populations.

In 1960, 11.9 million km2 of these savannahs had fewer than 25 people per km2. The comparable area shrank to 9.7 million km2 by 2000. Areas of savannah Africa with few people have shrunk considerably in the last 50 years and human population projections suggest they will likely shrink significantly in the next 40.

The current extent of free-ranging lion populations is 3.4 million km2 or about 25 % of savannah area. Habitats across this area are fragmented; all available data indicate that between 32,000 and 35,000 free-ranging lions live in 67 lion areas. Although these numbers are similar to previous estimates, they are geographically more comprehensive. There is abundant evidence of widespread declines and local extinctions.

Under the criteria we outline, ten lion areas qualify as lion strongholds: four in East Africa and six in Southern Africa.

Approximately 24,000 lions are in strongholds, with an additional 4,000 in potential ones. However, over 6,000 lions are in populations of doubtful long-term viability. Lion populations in West and Central Africa are acutely threatened with many recent, local extinctions even in nominally protected areas.